Program History

The University Writing Program promotes excellence in written communication among UC Davis students and faculty and emphasizes the importance of writing in the larger community. We teach undergraduate and graduate students from all disciplines to master the writing skills that they need to succeed as academics, professionals, and citizens. We prepare graduate students for careers as writing teachers, researchers, and professional writers.

The University Writing Program was established as an independent program in 2003-2004 to: provide writing instruction to undergraduates, oversee other units that offer writing courses, provide graduate student training in the teaching of writing, and work with faculty to integrate writing more effectively into courses across the curriculum.

Along with this independent program, the UWP was given five tenure-track faculty positions, including the prestigious Clark Kerr Chair for the first director of the program, Dr. Chris Thaiss (2006-2011). Dr. Carl Whithaus assumed the directorship in July 2011.

UC Davis faculty had long recognized the importance of writing instruction to students' academic and professional success. In 1966, the university instituted an upper-division writing requirement, which initially entailed passing an examination to demonstrate writing competency (now the Upper Division Composition Examination).  When it became clear that some students could not pass such an exam, an upper-division writing course (now UWP 101) was developed in the English Department.  Until 1981, graduate students taught lower division writing courses, while literature faculty taught upper division writing courses.

In 1981, writing faculty began to shift from specialists in literature to writing specialists, when "guest lecturers" were hired to teach upper division writing courses. 
Writing specialists were also hired to staff the Campus Writing Center, an innovative program founded in 1981 to improve writing across the disciplines by offering discipline-specific writing courses, training teaching assistants across campus to respond more effectively to writing, and consulting with faculty to integrate writing more effectively into their courses (now the Writing in the Disciplines Workshop Program). 

To meet the needs of students across campus, these professional writing faculty began creating more varied writing courses to teach conventions, formats, and styles required for writing in specific disciplines (now UWP 102A-L courses) and professions (now UWP 104A-F courses). They also developed computer-aided instruction for writing classes, established Prized Writing, an annual anthology of exemplary student writing, founded Writing on the Edge, a national journal on writing and writing instruction, and established the Writing Ambassadors Program to train advanced undergraduates to tutor writing in K-12 classrooms across the disciplines.

Beginning in 2007, UC Davis has been ranked each year by U.S. News and World Report among the top colleges and universities in the nation for writing in the disciplines.

In 2008, the Graduate Council approved an interdisciplinary “designated emphasis” at the PhD level in Writing, Rhetoric, and Composition Studies, administered by the UWP. A year later, the Graduate Council officially expanded the mission of the UWP to include writing instruction for students in graduate and professional schools across campus.  In addition to offering varied writing workshops for graduate students, the UWP also trains and supervises graduate students who provide peer tutoring through the Graduate Fellows Program.

In fall 2009, the Writing Minor was established, permitting undergraduates from all majors to study writing intensively and receive documentation on their transcripts.  The minor requires 20 units of upper division work, including 4 units of writing internship, in which minors develop their writing in real world contexts ranging from journalism, grant-writing, and public relations to writing technical manuals and scientific lab reports.